cover image The Pharaoh's Secret

The Pharaoh's Secret

Marissa Moss, . . Abrams/Amulet, $19.95 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-8378-6

A spring break trip to Egypt becomes more intriguing when 14-year-old narrator Talibah discovers a mystery regarding Egypt's only female pharaoh, Hatshepsut, which turns out to involve Talibah's family. Not that she's initially thrilled about this turn of events: “My goal for this trip is to lie by the pool and get a great tan, not run errands for some Egyptian ghost, even if that ghost could be my mother,” Talibah quips (her mother died five years earlier). Talking sphinxes and gods, as well as time travel back to Egypt's 18th dynasty set Moss's (the Amelia's Notebook series) thriller in the realm of fantasy, as Talibah attempts to solve the mystery and put souls to rest. The villain, in the guise of a family friend and tour guide, is largely one-dimensional, though Moss fills the Egyptian setting with evocative imagery. The family dynamics between Talibah, her younger brother and her grieving scholarly father prove to be one of the most compelling aspects of the story. Talibah's b&w sketches support the narrative with pen-and-ink images of obelisks, hieroglyphics, maps and family trees. Ages 9–13. (Oct.)